Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Tuesday report—a day in the life…

Several who read my description of a Tuesday in our lives at Spa for the Soul commented that it helped them to “see,” to catch something of the meaning of our choice to live as we do. That they found the descriptions encouraging, nourishing.

So here’s another Tuesday. Just for fun.

Last week was the major holiday with many businesses and public offices closed for the whole time. Kaş was packed, the tour and dive boats full, the cars all rented, and the restaurants overwhelmed with diners. Children ran and played in the square while vendors hawked their almonds, ice cream and pretty lamps. Paragliders drifted down to land on the harbor wall. An enterprising village woman wandered among the guests to sell her bundles of fresh sage.

And then on Sunday they all left. Monday bleary-eyed restaurant workers and shopkeepers gave up their cheerful, energetic facades and sat slumped in the sun.

We were weary, too, and I hit the 6am alarm onto snooze several times Tuesday morning, finally coming awake at 7. The house was empty save for Curt and me. I had rushed to prepare our apartment for unexpected guests Monday and laundry lay in the kitchen floor when I padded in to make coffee. Two loads were already on the lines from the evening before. I hung a third load and started yet another. Leaving three piles to go. Sipped coffee in the quiet while I looked at email. Jeremiah, Paul and Moses greeted me when I opened to the day’s reading. Jeremiah full of the pain of presiding over Israel’s demise at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, and I prayed over parallels to modern-day America. Paul exhorting young Timothy, and I prayed for our kids. Moses celebrating God’s faithfulness, and I once again shook my head in befuddlement at His crazy blessings showered on us, All at once it was time to jump in the shower and get ourselves to Kaş. Halil and l had plans for our day. Gül has a spanking new passport and Greek visa and asked me to accompany her on her first-ever trip out of Turkey. She and Halil can’t go together until the restaurant closes for the season.
And with Gül away for the day, Halil asked Curt, who had already been there to make juice during the final days of Bayram, to help in the restaurant.

The adventure out of Turkey meant we would take the ferry for the two-mile run to Meis, a Greek island just off Kaş. Not far, but complete with passport control on both ends and a duty free shop on the island. And a plane to Athens now and again, and a ferry to Rhodes every Monday morning. Meis (Kastalorizzo in Greek) is tiny with a sweet sheltered harbor, colorful Greek architecture, and loads of restaurants because there isn’t much else to do there but eat and drink, and the ferry keeps you there for five or six hours. Truth be told, the main reason for the trip was to buy rakı for the restaurant at duty free prices. Two bottles each allowance. Well worth the price of the ferry ticket. This coming weekend is Turkey's national day. For one last time in 2013 Kaş will be packed with holiday makers who tour and shop and dine.

Gül speaks only Turkish. Like Halil she has adopted me as Momi and we’ve done day trips together before. She was a little nervous to go to another country, one where people don’t speak Turkish much, and thus I was chosen.

As we entered the harbor Gül thrilled over the bright houses that look so different from what she knows. After the formalities of immigration we set off to walk the town. Looked in little shops (very expensive, we agreed), bought some things Güvenç had asked for, looked around the tiny supermarket where she marveled over a dark brown round of artisan bread, and then stopped for a coffee and savored the sharing of a luscious banana-chocolate crepe. As would prove true most of the day, the vendors spoke English but not Turkish and I found myself in a brand-new role as Gül’s translator. Which brought me deep joy, a sense that the investment in learning the Turkish language is well worth it. Gül found the cappuccino extraordinary. We swapped stories about what we knew of Meis and I learned a new word. “Dedekodu” (gossip) can be a problem for the tiny community. After a lazy sit in the sun we wandered on.

Halil knows people on Meis so there were connections to be made and greetings to be given. We walked around the big church hoping to find a door open. Gül had never seen one before and asked whether a church is the same as a mosque. “Sort of,” I answered. David told us about a tiny sculpture garden on beyond the last hotel on the harbor and we explored that. Gül pointed out several smaller buildings scattered here and there and asked what they were. Invariably they were small chapels. More churches. “So many churches,” she marveled and I longed for the language to tell her more. Then lunch at a friend’s place where we shared Greek salad, calamari, and something akin to falafel that she had never seen before. All fresh and local and vibrant with color and flavor.

As we sat Gül asked what I wanted to drink. Looked disappointed when I said water. When I asked if she wanted wine on this special day she said only if I was having. So we did. We sat just at the water’s edge. The walkway between the buildings and the edge of the concrete is, after all, just three meters wide. Talked about the women going about in bikinis, about how women who would never dress that way in their home place would come to Kaş and do the same. We saw a heavy woman my age in shorts and a bikini top. I told her about Eda’s response the first time she met a 60-something American woman in shorts. She still refers to “your friend with the puffy legs like marshmallows.”
Halil phoned many times to direct his wife’s journey, ensuring that she met those he wanted her to meet, saw things he wanted her to see, and, of course, got to the duty free shop in time to buy the rakı. I called Curt once just to make sure he didn’t feel left out. Smile. We arrived everywhere early because Gül didn’t want to mess up. We were back on the ferry 40 minutes before we needed to be. I enjoyed a read while she napped.

For Curt and Halil it was a slow day, an enjoyable time together. Yasemin ran to greet her mother, greedy for what gift she might receive. Halil waited all aglow with delight at this gift he'd give his wife. With Gül back, Curt covered the pomegranate juicing while Halil ran home to shower and change into his evening workclothes. 

Investing. Invested. In people, language, houses and lands and furnishings for guests. Another day of it. Closed with a tasty spinach and cheese pide (Turkish pizza) from the wood-fired oven of the neighboring restaurant. Home. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A day in the life...

How often has someone said to me, "Your life is so exciting, so full of adventure! You must think my life is boring." Others urge us to send details of our doings often so that they can pray. But when we ask about their lives, "Oh, it's just the some old--you know--nothing much to talk about...."

My normal response is to explain that life is life--wherever one lives. The laundry still needs doing, the car needs gas, the ironing pile stacks up. We hang with friends, shop for groceries, chat with the neighbors and pull weeds. Today it is raining. 
Spa for the Soul

Tuesday was a good day. I rose at 6am and padded down the two flights of stairs from our room to the kitchen. Softly, because every room sheltered a sleeping guest. Or my sleeping husband. It is still dark at 6, with stars and only the faintest suggestion that the sun will rise. The house was warm, so I opened doors and windows to the light breeze. I molded some dough for the morning's bread and left it on the board to rise while I made coffee and emptied the dishwasher. Oven set to 235C, timer set, I took my coffee to the sofa, lit candles, and settled into the quiet of dawn with Bible, journal and ipad. Email, a bit of news, Jeremiah, Paul and Asaph. Prayers for those in the house, for our kids who need to sell their house, and for the peace and prosperity of the community around us.

Guests turned up for the breakfast of eggs, cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumber and peppers, yogurt and fresh orange juice. And bread warm from the oven and mugs of strong coffee. By 9am only Curt and I remained. Dishes. Desk time working on some last matters related to my dad's estate. 

Tuesday was Kurban Bayram, the day sheep and goats are sacrificed and shared among family, friends and the poor. And it was Halil's birthday. Halil is dear to us, and just four months younger than our Caitlin. So at 11am we headed for town to sit with him at his restaurant for part of his 20-hour workday. 6-year-old Yasemin ran to meet us as we crossed the square, kissing our hands and touching them to her forehead in the greeting that honors family elders. Similar greetings from Halil and others of those we "mother" day by day. We hugged and massaged sore backs and shoulders and hugged again over the next two hours. Gul and Halil were happy-weary from the heavy load of serving countless holiday-makers. Good business but coming right at the end of the long season--well, they count the days until they can rest. 

At 1pm we strolled over to another friend's restaurant to enjoy their annual art show and a chat in the shade of their garden dining space on the harbor. 

By 2 we thought it time to venture up to the Kocaer family Bayram doings. Fatih had phoned the evening before to invite us, saying they would start at 10am. A phone call told us that our dear Ramazan was covering the office while the rest of the family enjoyed the holiday, so we stopped at Andifli to pay him Bayram greetings. "Did you see Fatih?" he asked. "Just on our way now." "You didn't go yet? But I think he told you they would start at 10. They are finished now. He is not there!" 

Assumptions. Messed up. Because it was a big family do, I imagined an all-day-into-the-wee-hours affair. Done already by 2? We missed it? Ouch! Ramazan phoned Fatih and we all laughed over what we foreigners didn't know.

"But my mother is making food now. What are you doing? Will you come to our house?" Ramazan was eager, and not dissuaded when we said we had our own guests for whom we needed to prepare dinner. So we picked up some veg and some chicken and ran them home, then picked up Ramazan back at the office and headed up the hill to Circillar and his family home. His mom sat before an open fireplace stirring a huge pot of boiling meat while his morning-sick wife Melike good-humoredly stayed as far from the smells as she could. Three goats had been sacrificed for this family's feast and sharing. For us they grilled rib pieces and roasted peppers in the coals. And homemade baklava. Ymmm! Neighbors came and went. All the while packages of meat and plates of baklava were carried to the homes of yet other neighbors. When we rose to leave at 5pm, a huge bunch of late grapes and a dozen early mandarins were plucked from vine and tree as a parting gift. 

Home for an hour of playing together before Curt grilled chicken and vegetables and I made a candlelit dining room on the terrace under the stars. Gentle conversation with our guests, an American couple who work in Ankara and have also lived in Iran and Kenya over their many years together. By 9pm the kitchen was clean and we headed to our rest.

So are our lives full of adventure and excitement because we live outside our home country? We still cook and clean and shop for groceries. We take part in community events. We have guests and are guests. We drink coffee and invest our time and hearts in the people around us. We mess up and receive grace. A mundane existence.

And yet not. I love our time in the US, but I also love this. Things I love: the culture of hospitality and generosity, the habits of spending time sharing and listening and simply being together. I love speaking a second language--well, trying to, studying and practicing and understanding more and more. I love the tenacity and generosity family and friends give one another. I love the simplicity that envelops us: people have less and make do more; gardens are planted with food more than with flowers; public transport and walking are ways of life; chickens cluck and scratch and crow and we enjoy their eggs, and they are not designer birds living in elaborate coops either. Our food scraps feed the neighbor birds. Books are passed around until they are tatty. Things don't get recycled so much as they are not consumed in the first place or they are re-used and re-purposed. Laundry is dried on the line and water is heated by the sun. Lentil soup is our neighbor child's favorite food.

I love our summers in the US surrounded by believers and soaking in teaching, studying together and communal prayer. But at this point in my life I would feel adrift, or maybe just excess, in a land of spiritual abundance. I feel privileged to be Jesus' hands and feet in a place where the magnificence of his power and love are little known.

I wonder if the foreignness keeps us more alive to the beauty and the sorrow around us?Our lives truly are "just life." Not much different. But are we different here? Do we experience the gift of each new day, of every opportunity more fully? Are we more alert, more alive to possibilities, more present and listening? 

Maybe it is not so much the exotic foreign land as it is the clarity that we are indeed aliens and strangers here, sojourning for a season with a purpose to bless.